The Still

For the past almost hundred years it seems Matt, Dan, Myself and recently Reub have been working on a still for the distillation of many many things. ┬áTo give you an idea of how long this has been going on, we started before I had my driver’s licence.

All this hard work has resulted in this.

The boiler on the bottom is an old 50 odd L keg. This has had the valve at the top removed and a large hole cut in it. Onto this is bolted a stainless steel bowl to which is attached a mass of copper pipes and fittings. Cork gasket is used between the keg, the bowl and the column to seal any gaps

The column is filled with ceramic rings that you can purchase from Pet stores, apparently the proper use for these has something to do with filtering the water in fish tanks but in this context they’re designed to provide a large surface area for steam to condense on. A pipeclamp and some wire mesh at the bottom of the column stops it from all falling into the boiler.

As you can see they’re quite small, being ceramic we don’t need to worry about them melting etc.

At the top of the main column we have a special attachment point (drilled hole)

Into which we can place out Thermometer, This gives us a reading of the steam rising up the column, important because different elements of the mash that we place in the bottom boil off at different temperatures and we only want to collect that which boils within a certain range.

Continuing right to the top of the still we have out condensing coil.

Cold water is pumped through this to cool the steam and cause it to condense. From here it drops to a couple of valves which determine whether it leaves the still to be collected or is refluxed back into the main column for further purification

About three weeks ago we crushed approximately 120L of apples and managed to extract about 18L of apple juice. This was then heated, had sugar and yeast added to it and left to ferment for a couple of weeks.

Yesterday morning this was then put in the boiler and heated for about 6 hours and then a further 4 hours today. 80L of ice went into the hot tub along with about 200L of water to keep the whole thing cool. During that time we managed to extract approx 750mls of usable alcohol. It doesn’t sound like much but it should be noted that as far as we can tell it’s somewhere between 80-85% alcohol. I.E not weak.

Going on from here we plans to try and workout exactly what percentage we’ve managed to produce as well as fiddle with the temperatures and reflux settings to determine what setup works best for us and produces the best result.